STAND Weekly Update 3/23-3/29
Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and DRC
Arab Leaders met in Baghdad Thursday to discuss and move forward on the implementation of the Syrian peace plan backed by the Arab League and United Nations, and headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. As provided by BBC news, Annan's six point plan consists of:
“1. Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people
2. UN-supervised cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties to protect civilians
3. All parties to ensure provision of humanitarian assistance to all areas affected by the fighting, and implement a daily two-hour humanitarian pause
4. Authorities to intensify the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained persons
5. Authorities to ensure freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists
6. Authorities to respect freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.”
The Syrian government made overtures towards accepting the plan on Tuesday, but opposition figures have expressed doubts as to the sincerity of the government's claims. In addition, despite lingering internal differences, the majority of Syrian opposition groups are now backing the Syrian National Council (SNC) as the central outlet for opposition activity and coordination.
Meanwhile throughout the country violence has continued unabated, and the week has been marked by frequent clashes between government security forces and army units and elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Shelling of Homs has continued throughout the week. In addition, two Syrian Army Colonels were killed in guerrilla shootings in the city of Aleppo. The United Nations now estimates that the death toll in Syria stands at more than 9,000 dead. NYT reported Wednesday on the hardships upon the estimated 6,000 Syrian refugees who have fled into neighboring Lebanon since the beginning of the unrest a year ago.
United Nations' Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay told BBC News Wednesday that Syrian security forces are “systematically detaining and torturing children” and castigated Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad for not doing more to end arbitrary detentions by government forces.
Sudan, South Sudan
South Sudan Archbishop says that Jonglei peace will begin soon.The Archbishop is head of a committee charged with finding a solution to the violence in Jonglei.
Inter-communal violence erupted on Tuesday in the main campus of the University of Juba in the South Sudan’s capital, leaving several students wounded.
The Sudanese foreign minister Ali Karti has revealed that his country wants a ceasefire as a prerequisite to allowing aid into the war-battered state of South Kordofan.
South Sudan’s army, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) denied using child soldiers. The UN special representative for children and armed conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, asid that there are still child soldiers in the SPLA, and that it is "very important that we de-list them as soon as possible."
A devastating fire broke out in Kuajok the capital of Warrap State causing fear among residents and business groups. The exact cost of the goods lost in the blaze isn’t known, although a victim estimated the cost at 120,000 South Sudanese pounds (around $45,000).
After a brief, halting step toward reconciliation, military clashes along the long, disputed border between Sudan and newly independent South Sudan have stirred fears of a renewed conflict between the two sides. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said she is very concerned about the cross-border attacks.
Last month, the Congolese army launched a new military offensive called Amani Kamilifu (“perfect peace” in Swahili). According to Jason Stearns, the operations currently appear to be confined to South Kivu, which is primarily focused on fighting the FDLR. The Congolese army reported that five battalions have been currently mobilized for these operations. The operation has already begun to raise fear among members of the humanitarian community, especially in light of the massive waves of displacement across the country. Displacement has been accompanied by increased abuse and human rights violations which have been connected to both rebel forces and members of the Congolese army. Though the FDLR has allegedly been losing strength and momentum, the past few months have been marked by violent clashes between the army and rebel forces, which has only exacerbated displacement and has even resulted in the death of civilians.
In response to the increased violence in the region, many Congolese villagers have begun to rely on self-defense militias as a source of protection. Living in a region where few trust the Congolese army, one villager living in eastern Congo said, “We are like orphans, without a father or a mother – we are an abandoned people. So we decided to fight.” However many relief workers believe these self-defense militias, called Raia Mutomboki or Angry Villagers, are just perpetuating the cycle of violence in the region. Increased fighting between militias and armed rebel groups like the FDLR has exacerbated displacement, where as many as 1.2 million are believed to be displaced from North and South Kivu. In the month of December, South Kivu witnessed the displacement of 128,000 people alone.
Up to 7,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring Uganda to escape increased violence and instability in the country since the botched November elections. Ugandan officials are now warning that the influx poses a security risk for Uganda and could lead to a clash over resources. Tensions are already high as one local official involved in refugee resettlement was killed on March 1, highlighting the growing animosity in the region over newcomers. The refugee influx comes at a time of heightened security over the border, as the Ugandan government fears the reprisals of militia groups that operate without impunity in eastern Congo.
Political negotiations continue in the DRC, spearheaded by MP Charles Mwando Nsimba, to identify a parliamentary majority ahead of the formation of a new cabinet. The next prime minister will be chosen from within the parliamentary majority, and Nsimba has 30 days to present a tentative list of leaders to President Kabila to choose from.
Belgium has joined a long list of international actors who have criticized the November electoral process and have called on the DRC to reform its electoral system. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said, “The process must be overhauled. I think the new parliament should make sure there is an improvement in the way the electoral commission works.” He did not comment on the role his country and former monarch, King Leopold II, have played in the country’s history and have allowed for the creation of the current system based on exploitation to flourish.
Following last year’s plane crash at Kisangani airport in eastern DRC, Hewa Bora Airways will destroy six plans in order to restore confidence in the country’s aviation industry. Hew Bora Airways was put on a European Union airline blacklist following the crash, so this move will symbolize the creation of a new national airline called Fly Congo.
In the DRC, malaria remains the leading cause of death. Several regions of the country currently face an extremely serious outbreak of malaria, which is made worse by the lack of health infrastructure and properly trained medical personnel in the area. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Mèdecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are working in Maniema, Equateur and Orientale provinces to combat the spread of the disease, and have already treated more than 17,000 people.
AVX Corp and Motorola Solutions Inc. have announced the first shipment of tantalum products validated as “conflict-free”. The tantalite ore used in the components was mined in the DRC, and reflects the result of Solutions for Hope which is a cooperate effort by AVX and Motorola to meet the impending requirements from Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act.
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